Munich - This is the part of the season when teams feel the end is near. Either its been mediocre and both players and fans just want to end it now, take a summer break and hope next year is better. Or teams can feel the pressure of a whole season's worth of work going down in flames in just a few matches.
The Munich and regional football teams are involved in some pivotal matches this weekend, making me wish Labor Day was on a Monday to give us time to watch all the action. Here's your preview.
TSV 1860 München at Hertha BSC Berlin, Friday 18:00 - Hertha will earn promotion and 2 points in the last three matches will clinch the top of the table. The Lions will remain in the Bundesliga's second division (license pending). But they will continuing playing for pride, as they have over the past weeks. And they will have motivation this week.
Over 70,000 fans are expected in Olympic Stadium to celebrate a Hertha win and certain promotion. "They will definitely celebrate the (second division) championship," admitted 1860 head coach Reiner Maurer. "But only when Augsburg lose in Cottbus (Monday night)".
Confident words from Maurer, and he can stand by his team on this. In five matches between the two clubs in the lower league, the Lions have never lost to Berlin. And the last time the two met, Benjamin Lauth scored early and 1860 held on for the 1-0 in the Allianz Arena.
FC Schalke 04 at FC Bayern München, Saturday 18:30 - Reeling from their Champions League semi-final loss earlier in the week, Schalke will come into Allianz Arena knowing all the pressure is on their opponent. The Royal Blues were responsible for ruining Bayern's season by winning the German Cup semi-final two month ago in Munich. Bayern got knocked out of the Champions League soon after that and have played mediocre in the Bundesliga since.
By the time match kicks off Saturday evening, Munich will know the result for Hannover, the team currently sitting above them for league's final Champions League berth. However, only a win for the Reds will count, and time is running out for the German record champs. Munich have a few advantages going into the matchup.
Munich have won their last three home matches by a total score of 12-1. The high scoring may continue with the motivation and revenge factor of beating the team that took away their chance for hardward this season.
And their current situation may help the Reds. "Schalke still have a chance to make the final," said interim Bayern head coach Andries Jonker of Schalke's 2 goal deficit going into the second leg at Old Trafford on Wednesday. "I think their minds will be somewhere else."
(Editor's Note: Salman Mitha and Mark Lovell will be tweeting from the match. Follow along at @sal_TMT_sports and @mark_TMT_sports.)
The match will see the return of Dutch international Arjen Robben, who had to sit out the last two matches after earning a red card after the draw in Nuremberg. "Robben is a world-class player," added Jonker. "I hope he shows his talent, we will need it."
The focal point of the Bayern attack the last year when the club came a match away from earning the Treble, Robben has been hampered with injuries and lackluster play after the World Cup. And the team's results have mirrored his performance. But the rest may end up helping him in the last three matches.
"I feel a responsibility to the team and the fans, that I left them alone for two matches," said an apologetic Robben. "I am sorry, but I am now motivated. We are not where we should be (on the table). We have three matches to win and qualify for the Champions League. That's the highest degree of motivation."
Bavarian Football previews
1. FC Nürnberg at Borussia Dortmund, Saturday 15:30 - Dortmund clinch the Bundesliga title with a win and will celebrate with their fans. Nuremberg stay in the race for the Europa League with a win, maybe even move past 1.FSV Mainz 05 if results work out. So perhaps this is the match of the weekend based on what's at stake for both clubs. Der Club are coming off a lost chance last week, drawing at home versus Mainz and sit two points behind. Mainz host Eintracht Frankfurt at the same time.
DSC Arminia Bielefeld at SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Saturday 13:00 - Fürth sit two points behind the promotion playoff spot and seven behind the second automatic promotion spot. Playing a Bielefeld squad who will be relegated to the lower divisions could not have come at a better time, as Bochum have only earned 1 point in the past three matches. Fürth lost the Derby match last week againt 1860 but should be ready to catch Bochum.
FC Erzgebirge Aue at FC Ingolstadt 04, Saturday 13:00 - FCI have been in good form to get above the relegation battles, but they will face an Aue club also looking to catch Bochum and sit 4 points behind. If both Bochum and Fürth slip up, they'll gladly move in. Aue are unbeaten in their last eight matches, and Ingolstadt may be their last tough opponent. Their next two opponents, Hertha may have already clinched promotion and FSV Frankfurt may be safe from relegation, so those should be wins. Ingolstadt will want to keep their form and stay in the 2nd league, this should be a battle.
FC Augsburg at FC Energie Cottbus, Monday 20:15 - THE match in the second division. As mentioned before, a lot of teams are nipping at FCA's heels for the second spot. Add Cottbus to that, who sit only 5 points for the playoff spot, so a win will put Augsburg in danger and tighten up the promotion battle.